Off to Delaware

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A horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus), photographed at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.


This weekend I'm headed off to see the annual breeding explosion of horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) in Delaware Bay. During late May and early June, especially during the full and new moon, scores of the invertebrates with shield-shaped carapaces pile onto the beach to breed, and all those eggs provide a smorgasbord for migratory birds. I never would have guessed that such a natural spectacle occurred just a few hours away.

This will be my second attempt to see the horseshoe crab mating extravaganza. My wife and I went last year, but we were a little early and arrived just after a major storm. We saw a lot of dead horseshoe crabs, and a few mating pairs, but not the piles of olive-colored invertebrates we had been expecting. Hopefully this year we will have better luck.

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A close-up of the underside of a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). Photographed May at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.


More like this

A horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus), crawling along just below the tide line. (Photographed May 17, 2008 at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.)
A close-up of the underside of a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). Photographed May 17, 2008 at the Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.
The shell of a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) crawling withe ladybugs (Coccinellidae). Photographed at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.
A horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) sculling about in the shallows at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.

I hope they're there for you! Horseshoe crabs are so weird and so cool.

I've been doing horseshoe crab counting up here in NY. Our numbers have been okay so far, but it's still early for it up here.

Yeah, next weekend (June 7) will probably be better because of the full moon, but this is the weekend I booked for the trip. It will still be nice little break, though.

I really ought to try to catch that this year too. Missed it a couple of year ago by a few hours.

Horseshoe crabs actually live in Long Island Sound - which, if you've seen what that water looks like, makes them incredibly resiliant.

LIS isn't all bad actually. Eastern LIS is actually quite clean and often find horshoecrabs migrating from NJ to LI (southshore and LIS) up on their way to CT. But still have to agree, anything that survives in some sections of LIS are quite amazing!

Horseshoe crabs are some of the most fascinating living creatures I've ever come across. They've been around since the Paleozoic, and are the closest living relatives of those infamous trilobites....

I used to live in Maryland and I'd go to Delaware a few times a year, there were some of them washed up on the beach, but not the huge piles like you supposedly get in breeding season. I found a small dead one, took it home and washed out the shell (I think I might actually still have it somewhere!)

Tons of them last weekend at Port Mahon and other sites. The full moon and the new moon are the best times. You can get a tide table for Leipsic and time your travels from site to site based on the tides. Be careful where you walk - many are totally buried under the sand. Flip any you see upside down.

And please become an activist against "harvesting" them or their eggs. They need to produces masses at once to feed migrating birds and have some left over to hatch. If fisherfolk skim off the top 10% for bait or dogfood, that can ruin their strategy. Then the birds, which hang around to regain body fat on their way north, will fail to reach their summer breeding grounds.

What an exciting way to spend the weekend!

Here in Singapore, the horseshoe crab species we have here don't come up to lay their eggs in such numbers. Due to destruction of mangroves and sandy shores, our 2 species of horseshoe crabs are considered to be pretty vulnerable to extinction. Abandoned nets and fishing lines that entangle them also take a heavy toll.

http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/index.php?entry=/marine/20090529-xiphosur…

I used to live in Maryland and I'd go to Delaware a few times a year, there were some of them washed up on the beach, but not the huge piles like you supposedly get in breeding season. I found a small dead one, took it home and washed out the shell (I think I might actually still have it somewhere!)

Yeah, next weekend (June 7) will probably be better because of the full moon, but this is the weekend I booked for the trip. It will still be nice little break, though.

I agree film izle "I used to live in Maryland and I'd go to Delaware a few times a year, there were some of them washed up on the beach, but not the huge piles like you supposedly get in breeding season. I found a small dead one, took it home and washed out the shell (I think I might actually still have it somewhere!)"